Mike Matheny is no longer manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and that is a good thing. Matheny had a lot of things that annoyed me, but my number one annoyance was the fact that he didn’t improve despite gaining more experience. He didn’t use the information he had learned to become a better manager. He was stubborn and seemingly took no lessons from his failures.
Now the question is: can Mike Shildt learn from his failures? Can Mike Shildt improve as a major league manager with more experience? I am aware that he has been a minor league manager for hundreds of games, but managing the minors is an entirely different thing from managing the majors.
This post is not about his failures though. This post is about things he tended to do that personally annoyed me. This isn’t even me making a personal plea to Mike Shildt: I doubt he reads what I write and he has no reason to listen to a word I say. Some of this might not even be applicable to 2019. I have annoyances with his use of specific players that either may not be on the team next year or may have a completely different role. I hope these wouldn’t also make my list of 2019 annoyances though.
#1 Yairo Munoz playing over Tyler O’Neill in the OF
I am not one of those people opposed to Munoz playing in the outfield ever. He looks about like you’d expect an infielder who can occasionally play the OF: not great, but is fine in a pinch. Munoz started 9 games in the OF and played in 24 games overall there. In a two-month period (the last two months of the season), Munoz started eight games in either CF or RF when O’Neill was also on the roster. We will never know the specific reasons why: I’m not sure whether it would be better or worse if it was because he believed Munoz was the better play. On the one hand, at least he’s not starting worse players on purpose. On the other hand, I hope he doesn’t believe Munoz in the OF is a better option than O’Neill.
Anyway, eight games in two months is enough that it was a thing. This doesn’t count the times when he had Munoz be a defensive replacement over O’Neill, although admittedly I didn’t try to figure this out, because either O’Neill or Munoz were usually one of the first pinch-hit bats if they didn’t start and Munoz was a favorite for the double switch. But I’m pretty sure it happened more than once.
#2 Bringing Dakota Hudson in with runners on
This was one really confusing to me, especially at the end of the season. Whatever you think of Hudson, he is very much not the type of pitcher you bring in with runners on base. He doesn’t strike anybody out. You had essentially less than a 1 in 6 chance of him coming through with a strikeout. Yes, he gets lots of groundballs. But he also would typically make things worse by walking 15.3% of hitters too. This is a pitcher who should start an inning.
This is to say nothing of the fact that Hudson wasn’t very good in the majors. In 27 innings, he struck out 19 and walked 18. Yes, he had a 2.63 ERA, but ERA is pretty misleading for relievers, especially relievers who tended to mainly come in with men on base. Hudson allowed 55% of inherited runners to score. For pitchers who allowed 9 or more inherited runners (which is how many Hudson allowed), that is 5th worst in the majors. This admittedly doesn’t necessarily make you a bad pitcher. While Chris Volstad and Paul Sewald are below him, so is Silvino Bracho. A better case than inherited runners scored for Hudson not being a good option is his K/BB ratio.
#3 Too many double switches
This has already been covered here, although John LaRue essentially defends his double switches. I don’t mind a good double switch. But I don’t like double switches just for the sake of making a double switch. For example, as pointed out in that article, with a 6-3 lead and two outs in the 8th, Shildt brought in Hudson (with a runner on, so really this is just a perfect example). In the 6th spot goes Hudson and 9th spot goes Patrick Wisdom for Jedd Gyorko. Hudson was never going to be used in the 9th (and wasn’t) so why make a double switch? Wisdom is not a superior fielding option to Gyorko in my opinion.
Anyway, this section will probably not come up a ton next year. As long as we have Munoz and as long as Shildt loves Munoz, there’s going to be double switches. But if, as pretty much everyone thinks, Jose Martinez is traded, there’s not going to be a player you double switch out for defensive reasons on a consistent basis anymore.
#4 John Brebbia’s usage
I’m hesitant to make a declarative statement like “Pitch John Brebbia in high leverage situations more next year” for multiple reasons. For one, relievers be relievers. Just because Brebbia was good this year does not mean he will next year. Secondly, I do not know what the bullpen will look like. Hicks will be back. Brebbia will be back. Dominic Leone will be back. The rest are either good bets that still aren’t guaranteed to be back or definitely off the roster.
What I do know is how Brebbia stacked up against the 2018 bullpen and he stacked up very well. He was arguably the second best reliever throughout the season. Yet he tended to pitch in blowouts or games the Cards were already losing. He did not pitch in many close games that your second best reliever usually pitches in. This annoyed me.
#5 Francisco Pena over Carson Kelly
This is part of my brand at this point. Pena was bad. He was very bad. Kelly played in 19 games and batted 42 times, which gives you an idea of how many of those games were starts. Kelly might be bad. He might also be good. He’s also a top 100 prospect. Pena is 28-years-old who had 60 career plate appearances before this season. Kelly’s defense is highly regarded by prospect reports. I cannot confirm whether it is that good or not because he never actually played. Having witnessed Pena on defense, I feel very comfortable saying Kelly is a much better defender, because Pena is also bad on defense.
For my own sake and you dear readers when I inevitably end up beating a dead horse next year, let Kelly be the backup next year or trade him (or get an actually good backup, but that isn’t happening)
Those are my annoyances with Mike Shildt’s managing in 2018. A couple, over a full season, will actually impact the win total, namely starting Pena over Kelly and starting Munoz over O’Neill. Both of those are very clear downgrades from who he is choosing to start. The rest don’t seem likely to matter much. If Brebbia is again our second best reliever, something has gone terribly wrong or Brebbia takes a leap forward as a reliever (in which case, I’m pretty sure he’ll get high leverage spots). Double switches really don’t make much of an impact overall. I think Mike Shildt did a good job. I hope he can improve next year though.